William Alan Ekberg, 93, of Bismarck, North Dakota, passed away on June 14, 2016 at St. Gabriel’s Community Nursing Home in Bismarck.
Bill was born in 1923 in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, MN, to Carl and Ruth Ekberg. As a boy, Bill enjoyed summers and many adventures with his three brothers in Blackduck, MN. Bill attended school in Minneapolis and finished Marshall High School as valedictorian. He graduated from West Point in 1945, where he played on the NCAA National Championship Basketball Team. During college he met Bismarck native Marietta Meyer on a blind date and it was love at first sight. After graduation they married and their love story is chronicled through a series of beautiful letters in the book Dress Gray.
In late 1945, the army shipped off 2nd Lt. Bill to Occupied Japan where Marietta joined him. A year later he was assigned to a secret Army unit in Albuquerque, NM that developed and tested three atomic bombs. The army then sent him to MIT to complete a Master’s degree in Engineering. He finished his Army career as a Captain after teaching Engineering at Annapolis and West Point.
Bill and Marietta moved with their growing family in 1954 to Bismarck, where he was President of Meyer Broadcasting Company for 35 years. He helped introduce TV to North Dakota and added multiple radio and TV stations, as well as cable. Past employees appreciated his compassion, intelligence, dedication, and passion for his work. Meyer Broadcasting flourished under his leadership.
Actively engaged in civic duty, he was a founding member and past president of the Dakota Zoo, involved in Rotary, longtime member of St. George’s Episcopal Church, and served on many boards over the years.
Bill was a Renaissance man: he played violin in the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony, taught himself to play piano and classical guitar, built (and crashed!) model airplanes, created beautiful artwork, like watercolor paintings, and enjoyed computer programming.
“Life is an adventure” was Bill’s motto. He traveled from the Arctic Circle and Svalbard Norway to the British Isles, Turkey, Italy, Mexico, and the Antarctic in his 80s. Over the years he never lost his love of learning. His innate curiosity and pursuit of new challenges continues to inspire his family and friends. Physically he was very active and an avid golfer, relishing several holes-in-one.
Bill found love again and in 2010 married Verena Johnson and enjoyed her family, especially playing card games like Smear. Bill loved his family and was proud of all his children and grandchildren’s accomplishments. He is survived by his wife, Verena, and his five daughters: Judith Johnson (Bruce), Nancy Ekberg (Dan Tynan), Marietta Turner (Jot), Peggy Hammerling (Roy), and Susie Risher (Steve), 17 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
Special thanks to the staff of St. Gabriel’s Community and St. Alexis Hospice, both of Bismarck, for their expert and compassionate care.
Memorial Funeral Service: Saturday, July 2, 2016, 11:00 AM at St. John Lutheran Church (1710 5th Street S), Fargo, ND, with a brief time of remembrance following the service at a luncheon.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to either the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra (215 North 6th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501); The Nature Conservancy of ND (Cross Ranch Nature Preserve, 1401 River Road, Center, ND 58530-9445); or St. Gabriel’s Community Nursing Home (4580 Coleman St., Bismarck, ND 58503).